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Col. Michael McGinnis, 51, head of the Department of Systems Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy and a key figure in Army modeling and simulation projects during the last 15 years, has been hired as executive director of Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC).

He will join VMASC in June after he has completed the academic year at West Point and retired from the Army.

Since 1997, when it was founded, VMASC has been an integral part of a Hampton Roads modeling, simulation and visualization cluster of industry, government and academic entities focused on military and commercial applications. Many of the applications involve training, experimentation and decision-making under realistic simulated conditions. Others involve testing of strategies and equipment.

In partnership with economic development organizations, VMASC is a catalyst for $500 million per year in regional economic activity.

"Col. McGinnis has broad experience in research, teaching and academic leadership," said ODU President Roseann Runte. "He has been an effective team and program builder. He is a highly reputed engineer in the fields of modeling, simulation, analysis and visualization. We are proud of the accomplishments of VMASC, the fine work of Bowen Loftin and Roland Mielke, and all look forward to welcoming Dr. McGinnis to this burgeoning research center, so vital to the economic development of this region."

Loftin resigned as VMASC executive director in May to become a vice president of his alma mater, Texas A&M University. Mielke, the VMASC technical director and professor of electrical and computer engineering, is serving as interim executive director.

McGinnis has been the systems engineering department head at West Point for the last six years, and during that time has been a regular member of official U.S. delegations to international symposia involving computer simulations. In 2002-03 he directed a task force for the secretary of the Army that used modeling and analysis to revamp the way the Army builds its combat brigades.

As director in 1997-99 of the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Analysis Center in Monterey, Calif., McGinnis built a reimbursable research program and gained an international reputation in advanced computer simulation. He gave a keynote speech on "Emerging Trends in Modeling and Simulation Technologies" at a conference of 400 engineers and scientists in Australia in 1998.

Under his leadership, reimbursable research in systems engineering at West Point increased from $300,000 in 1999 to $3 million in 2005, and he was credited with expanding the institution's research partnerships both with the Department of Defense and private industry.

McGinnis began the process of transitioning out of the Army a year ago and said he jumped at the chance to enter the private sector with VMASC. "When I retire, I will have spent half of a 29-year military career leading high-technology, cutting-edge organizations doing modeling and simulation," he said. "This is a very good fit for me, and I am humbled and honored to have been chosen. VMASC is already very well positioned as a leader in these fields. A lot of credit must go to the people who are at VMASC now, and I hope that we can keep this team together."

Mohammad A. Karim, ODU's vice president for research, said he was particularly impressed by McGinnis' academic background and the special projects he has directed for the Army. "Col. McGinnis brings strong leadership experience in modeling, simulation and visualization, as well as systems engineering," Karim said.

McGinnis, who grew up on a Nebraska farm, graduated from West Point in 1977. He holds master's degrees in applied mathematics and operations research and statistics (1986) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a master's in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College (1996) and a doctoral degree in systems and industrial engineering from the University of Arizona (1994).

"Col. McGinnis is eminently qualified to be executive director," said Robert R. Harper Jr., a Northrop Grumman Mission Systems executive who chairs the VMASC advisory board. "Industry partners of VMASC look forward to working with him. This is a positive step for VMASC and ODU as we move forward in this region with modeling and simulation."

Harper also is acting executive director of the state Emergency Management Training, Analysis and Simulation Center (EMTASC), which is being housed at VMASC in Suffolk until its own facility is constructed. EMTASC was created in August by Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner. It will use modeling and simulation in support of homeland security and other emergency-response management functions.

Earlier this year, Warner authorized $1.45 million in state funds to spur growth of modeling and simulation in Hampton Roads. A recent study commissioned by VMASC predicted that the annual economic impact of these technologies could grow from about $500 million in 2005 to $1 billion over the next five years.
VMASC headquarters are in northern Suffolk and "VMASC East" facilities are on the ODU campus in Norfolk. The northern Suffolk "Sim City" also is home to the Department of Defense's Joint War Fighting Center (JWFC) and the Joint Battle Center (JBC), co-located in the U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Training, Analysis and Simulation Center (JTASC).

Companies that are involved in modeling and simulation in "Sim City" or elsewhere in Hampton Roads include all of the larger defense contractors as well as many specialized small- and medium-sized companies. These include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Boeing, Raytheon, CACI, Alion Science, Loyola Enterprises, DDL Omni, Warner-Anderson and BMH Associates.

VMASC manages the ODU master's and doctoral programs in modeling and simulation. In 2003, the university became the first institution in the country to award a doctorate in the field. Currently, 66 master's students and 34 doctoral students are enrolled in the graduate modeling and simulation programs. The VMASC research and administrative staff and affiliated university faculty members number about 65.

Richard Whalen, the retired Navy captain who is the university's director of military activities, said the selection of McGinnis should "enhance the strong ties VMASC has enjoyed with the U.S. military." He noted the colonel's service as an artillery officer and added, "I'm especially delighted that the University is adding yet another seasoned leader at VMASC whose military career included significant warfare specialty experience, as well as distinguished academic and research achievement."

Whalen, who is former director of professional development at the Naval Academy, said, "I also consider Col. McGinnis' arrival at ODU from the faculty at West Point to be a delightful Army/Navy football game discussion opportunity."

This article was posted on: November 21, 2005

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